From some to none? Fertility expectation dynamics of permanently childless women

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Date and Time: 
Monday, February 27, 2017
2:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Alison Gemmill
UC Berkeley

Permanent childlessness is increasingly acknowledged as an outcome of a dynamic,context-dependent process, but few studies have integrated a life course framework to investigate the complex pathways leading to childlessness. This paper focuses on an understudied, yet revealing dimension of why individuals remain childless— stated fertility expectations over the life course. Using data from the NLSY 1979 cohort, I use sequence analysis and logistic regression models to identify and describe groups of permanently childless women who follow similar trajectories of stated fertility expectations. Results indicate that three dimensions of fertility expectation patterns— the emergence of a childless expectation, the consistency of childless expectations, and the types of patterns that precede a childless expectation— provide a more nuanced description of the composition of permanently childless women than the standard voluntary/involuntary framework. The results, moreover, provide support for process-based explanations of eventual childlessness that are often difficult to operationalize in cross-sectional data.